As he stepped off the stage at his weekly press conference, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer was asked if he had anything planned for Halloween on Thursday.
“I don’t know if we’re going to celebrate Halloween this year,” he said, half-joking.
After Saturday’s historic loss to Duke, nobody was in a celebrating mood at Virginia Tech (6-2, 3-1 ACC), which dropped out of both polls Sunday.
The Hokies, who travel to Boston College this week, didn’t drop out of the Coastal Division race, just a game back in the loss column of Miami, who they’ll play in two weeks. The ‘Canes could suffer their first loss this weekend, as three-touchdown underdogs at Florida State.
It’s why Beamer, despite how much it might rankle a fan base eager to assess blame for Saturday’s disappointment, is trying keep his team looking forward.
“Disappointment’s going to happen to all of us,” Beamer said. “But the real secret, or the real key thing, is how you react to disappointment. And that kind of determines who you are, in my opinion.”
Players described the mood at Sunday’s practice, which is usually reserved for review of the previous day’s game, as down.
“I’d be disappointed if they weren’t down,” Beamer said. “It’s a disappointing loss. But yeah, the other side of it is let’s find out what went wrong, figure that out and get it right and let’s try to play better this week. We’re going to have to.”
“We just have to put it behind us and move on and not make it a burden,” linebacker Tariq Edwards said.
Although the mood wasn’t great, the Hokies think things picked up as practice progressed.
“Obviously the guys were sad,” quarterback Logan Thomas said. “Nobody wants to lose a game at all. But I think we’re all motivated. It was probably the best Sunday practice that we’ve had. I took it upon myself to set the tempo and make sure that nobody was going through the motions, that we’re all going full speed.
“I think the guys are ready to go,” Thomas added. “Obviously, I think [the Duke game] was eye opening for all of us.”
Boston College (3-4, 1-3 ACC) doesn’t have a resume that scares you, although the Eagles played Florida State tough in a 48-34 loss at home last month and didn’t wilt at Clemson in a 24-14 loss.
Under first-year head coach Steve Addazio, BC appears to know what it is: a hard-nosed, physical team in the mold of good Eagles teams of the past. Tailback Andre Williams is averaging an ACC-best 144.3 rushing yards per game and has already gone over the 1,000-yard mark this year, with 183 carries for 1,010 yards and eight touchdowns.
“This Boston College group will absolutely hammer you,” Beamer said. “They’re physical, they’re tough. And Boston College has always been that way, but I think it’s more so right now, under the staff that’s there now. So it’s quite a challenge for our football team.”
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Here are a few more press conference notes and quotes …
– ESPN has requested a six-day hold deciding kickoff times for three Nov. 9 games, including Virginia Tech-Miami. That means the Hokies won’t find out the starting time for that game until noon on Sunday at the latest. The game will be on ABC or ESPN. The two other games being held for consideration are Florida State at Wake Forest and Notre Dame at Pittsburgh.
– Cornerback Kendall Fuller was named the ACC’s Co-Defensive Back of the Week after his three-interception performance against Duke. The true freshman is tied for the national lead with five picks, joining four others: Tulane’s Lorenzo Doss, Virginia’s Anthony Harris, Oregon State’s Steven Nelson and Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward.
– Virginia Tech has not historically played great at Boston College. Although the Hokies have won on their last two trips to Chestnut Hill, they were fortunate to get to overtime and pull last year’s game out 30-23. In 2006 and ’08 they brought ranked teams to Alumni Stadium to face unranked Boston College squads. They lost both times.
“It’s definitely going to be a mental challenge for us,” Thomas said. “Boston’s going to probably be a little chilly. At the same time, they have a great team that’s going to force us to know what we’ve got to do with the football. Defensively, they show multiple looks and we’ve got to be able to take care of the football. And yeah, bounce back this week. I think the guys are ready to go.”
– Thomas said his biggest issue Saturday was that he was making progressions, but doing them too quickly.
“My footwork and my brain really weren’t jelled together, which means I was looking at two when my feet were still ready for one,” he said. “So that’s what kind of got me off my game.”
He estimated that he played well for about 75 percent of his snaps.
“Which obviously isn’t very good,” he added.
“I think when you go out there and compete, some days are better than others,” Beamer said of his senior quarterback. “But I’ve got all the confidence in the world in Logan Thomas and he’s a guy that’s very much the leader of this football team. Very much a guy on this football team that can get us back and playing well this week.”
– Asked whether Duke was better defensively than people thought or if Virginia Tech just didn’t close things out, Thomas said this:
“We had 40 minutes time of possession, 30 plus first downs, out-gained them by almost 200 yards,” he said. “So, no. We just hurt ourselves.”
– Beamer continued to stand behind kicker Cody Journell, despite the senior’s struggles. Journell is 8-for-14 this year and missed kicks from 40 and 45 yards Saturday that proved costly. He’s missed at least one field goal in each of the last four games he’s attempted one.
“I’ve still got confidence in him,” Beamer said. “I’ve seen him kick too many good balls for me not to have confidence in him.”
Beamer said Journell’s struggles haven’t changed how the Hokies approach their decisions when on the edge of his field goal range. When they went for it on 4th-and-11 in the first quarter Saturday, it was because of the wind, even though Duke’s kicker made two field goals from 50-plus into that end of the stadium.
“I was concerned about the wind,” Beamer said. “It was really changing up.”
– Beamer’s assessment is that a variety of little things are still holding them back, although one thing stands out.
“It still gets down to making plays at the right time and critical time,” he said. “And [we] just didn’t get it done. ..
“When you give up that ball, when you get a turnover, that hurts you more than anything. I think that determines the games more than anything.”
– On the play that Duke’s Anthony Boone scored on a touchdown run, backup defensive end Ken Ekanem was one of a few players who got sucked in toward the middle and lost contain on the outside.
Ekanem was in the game only because senior J.R. Collins was serving a one-game suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
“Of course J.R. has been playing so hard and playing well, and he’s a valuable part of the football team, but we had enough personnel to get the job done,” Beamer said. “We just didn’t make enough plays.”
“They had a hat on a hat, so it was just good offense by Duke,” defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins said. “Everybody was in the right position, but they just had a good play. Once we corrected it, they didn’t run it again.”
– Beamer said he was going to try to get clarification from ACC coordinator of football officiating Doug Rhoads about the Duke punt that was originally ruled a touchback, then changed to be down at the 1-yard line.
“I don’t understand how a guy out of bounds could affect the play inbounds,” Beamer said. “But they seemed very sure that that was the rule. But that was a new one on me. They taught me something and I’ve been around it a long time. But they taught me something there.”
That play didn’t affect much. Thomas completed a 56-yard pass to Demitri Knowles on the next snap and the Hokies moved 99 yards for their only touchdown of the game.